Statewide Drunk Driving Crackdown Continues
Statewide efforts to crack down on drunk driving will continue into April.
In the past, drunk driving efforts focused only around St. Patrick's Day in March, but a five year review of crash data shows alcohol use plays a significant role in fatal car accidents throughout March and into early April. The Office of Highway Safety plans to extend their spring drunk driving crackdown until April 2nd.
A spring trifecta of March Madness, school spring break, and St. Patrick's Day leads to an increase in drunk driving.
"Records indicate that this is a period of time when there's a lot of drunk driving accidents, collisions, and fatalities," said Lt. Edward Hay with Michigan State Police.
More than 160 law enforcement agencies across the state will add 7,500 hours of additional drunk driving patrols during the initiative.
Last year during the NCAA basketball tournament time frame, more than 2,000 drivers across the state were arrested for drunk driving. In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, but drivers can be arrested at any BAC level.
"If an officer pulls somebody over and has suspicion or reason to believe someone has been drinking, they run the risk of being arrested for drunk driving," said Hay.
Hay stresses the importance of celebrating responsibly by calling a cab when you're out, designating a sober driver, or taking public transportation -- all ways to avoid the dangers of driving drunk.
"Statistics indicate that when drinking is involved there's a greater likelihood of a more serious traffic collision or a fatal accident," Hay said. "And again that's what we're trying to prevent."
Under the state's high BAC law, drivers may face harsher penalties if a first-time arrest is for a .17 BAC or higher. About 600 people were charged under the state's high BAC law during March Madness last year.
A first-time offense can mean a fine of up to 500 dollars, three months in jail, and 45 hours of community service. Those penalties increase for a second and third offense, or if the drunk driver causes an accident or injury.